The GRPS Family and Community Engagement office recognizes that our district’s families are going through moments of extreme stress during this pandemic. Basic needs are of top concern for many families, and we understand that encouraging a shift in mindset is not a sufficient answer to these very heavy, very real concerns. However, since attending to your mental health and that of your family is a priority during this time, November’s edition of Power Parent Magazine aimed to connect GRPS families with mindfulness and gratitude resources to help you cope with the stress of daily life.
Power Parent: November 2020 covers each of the following articles:
- NEED TO DO: Parenting during a Pandemic contains tips to minimize COVID stress in your home so that your children – and yourself – can live a more mindful life.
- Find a fun list of journal prompts, crafts (a Gratitude Garden!), and other gratitude activities in GOOD TO KNOW: Gratitude Exercises and Activities
- Find a whole list of gratitude inspiration in SETTING GOALS: Ways to Foster Gratitude
- Under CHECK IT OUT: Mindful Media for Kids, you’ll be able to check out some of today’s latest and greatest apps, games, and videos related to mindfulness and gratitude
- What exactly IS mindfulness? Find out in NETWORKING FOR SUCCESS: Practicing Mindful Gratitude
- Under NAVIGATING ACHIEVEMENT: Gratitude Books, Videos, and More, discover a curated list of books and videos related to gratitude
- Find a fun November Gratitude Challenge in FAMILY CONVERSATIONS: Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude
Minimize COVID Stress
Even in the best of times, raising children is hard work. Now, in a time when families like yours face distance learning challenges, employment changes, or other very real issues, parenting may be even harder than ever. Social distancing measures and the near-constant uncertainty of the current situation have put added stress on all of us, your children included. If your family is feeling extra stress or anxiety because of how COVID-19 has affected your life, please know that you are not alone.
Helping your Kids with Online Classes and Schoolwork
Connect with Your Child’s Teacher.
- Remember, they’re also getting through this by trial and error. If your child’s school is still closed, be honest about what is working with home tutoring and what isn’t. Your child’s teacher has a good understanding of their academic strengths and weaknesses, so they may be able to help you come up with a more individualized learning plan.
Create a Learning Routine.
- A routine gives kids a sense of normalcy during an otherwise uncertain time. But you don’t have to go crazy with color-coded schedules if that’s not your style. Just create a general outline that you think you can maintain on most days that still leaves room for flexibility and down-time. If possible, try to designate a workspace for each member of the family.
Set Goals—and Celebrate Their Completion.
- Since so much has been stripped from our everyday lives, having something to look forward to can help kids stay motivated. Setting up small rewards, like watching an episode of a favorite TV show, can help them tackle that unpleasant math assignment. Get the whole family in on it. If you all set a few goals and plan breaks together, your kids will see that you’re a team.
Get Creative with Lessons.
- Doing a science experiment, for example, or cooking with measurements, can be a good way of bringing lessons to life. And consider your child’s strengths. If they love to draw and write, now is a good time to set them free with pencils and paper.
Practice Vulnerability and Encourage your Kids to do the Same!
- These are less-than-ideal circumstances, and at some point, conflict at home is bound to happen. When you feel your frustration starting to build, take a time out and try to separate yourself before the situation escalates. If you do lose your temper, wait for everyone to calm down and then apologize. Be honest with your kids and let them know when you’re feeling overwhelmed. At the same time, encourage them to be honest about their feelings and frustrations.
Dealing with your Child’s Fears and Stress
After watching the news or overhearing an adult conversation regarding the pandemic, young children might get scared. COVID-19 has changed their schooling, friendships, and normal routine, so it should be a top priority to address your child’s fears and reassure their physical and emotional well-being.
Talk at an Age-Appropriate Level.
- If your child is young, don’t volunteer too much information, as this could cause their imagination to run wild. Instead, try to answer any questions they might have. It’s okay not to know everything; if your child is older, help them find accurate information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO).
Answer Questions Simply and Honestly.
- If your child has questions about the pandemic, know that honesty is always the best policy. While you don’t want to frighten young children, there’s nothing wrong with talking about the need for taking safety precautions such as social distancing and washing their hands.
- If you’re forced to quarantine as a family, your child will be disappointed at not being able to see friends or visit with other family members. Be receptive to this. Explain to them that you understand their disappointment, and you are missing out on friendships and special occasions as well.
Arrange Virtual Playdates.
- Offer an alternative to in-person playdates via the Internet. Set your children up on video conferencing services, like Skype or Zoom, so they can keep in contact with close friends and grandparents, for example.
Give Extra Love and Affection.
- This is a stressful time for all of us and we could all benefit from extra affection. Your child will appreciate extra hugs and kisses.
Designate Special One-on-One Time.
- If everyone is at home with each other all the time, having one on one time with each child is a great way to forge a closer bond. Have your child choose an activity for the two of you to participate in together.
Find Things to be Grateful About.
- Each evening, share with your child one fun or positive thing you experienced that day and encourage them to do the same. It could be a work or school accomplishment, a home repair, or something as simple as witnessing a beautiful sunset. It may sound corny, but acknowledging gratitude and positive experiences can provide a respite from negative thinking and really boost your family’s mood.
Keeping Healthy Routines
As the pandemic drags on, it can be easy to neglect your normal daily routines. But structure and consistency are important for kids. Maintaining regular mealtimes and bedtimes, for example, can help your child feel safe and secure.
Establish Healthy New Routines.
- As you readjust to a new normal, you may need to establish new daily schedules for your kids. Even if things like bedtimes have changed without school every day, try to be consistent and follow the same schedule each day. Make time for activities such as exercise, family dinners, and household chores as well as time for your child to socialize with friends, whether that’s done safely in person or online.
Follow Safety Advice.
- With different areas facing different restrictions, it’s important to follow the advice of trustworthy sources such as the CDC, WHO, and your local public health authorities. Playgrounds, schoolyards, and parks are all high-contact areas where your children should follow your instructions about keeping themselves and others safe. That may mean wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and regularly washing their hands.
Reinforce the Importance of Hygiene and Handwashing.
- Hand washing might have been a boring, mundane task in 2019, but now it can be a life-saving measure. Get your child into the routine of washing their hands every time they’ve been outside or come into contact with other people. To encourage the habit in young children, make up a song to the melody of one of your child’s favorites and sing it together while they wash their hands.
Practice What You Preach.
- Follow social distancing and other safety protocols yourself, treat others with respect, and protect the vulnerable. Young children are impressionable and will mimic your behavior, so make sure you set a positive example.
Writing down a few things you are grateful for is one of the easiest and most popular exercises available.
The purpose of the exercise is to reflect on the past day, few days, or week, and remember 3-5 things you are especially grateful for. In this way, you are focusing on all the good things that happened to you in a given set of time.
What is the appropriate amount of journaling one should do per week? Some people propose doing it every day while others suggest once per week. The arguments against doing it every day are that it can be tedious and forced. It becomes a practice you feel you should do or need to do instead of something you want to do. When journaling becomes a banal task and not an enjoyable practice then you need to adjust the amount of journaling you do.
Besides the benefit of focusing on the wonderful things, this practice actually can increase your quality of sleep, decrease symptoms of sickness, and increase joy (Marsh, 2011).
It is important to cater your practice to what you need. Perhaps journaling every day for a short amount of time works for you, but over time, it feels better to journal every Friday.
Paying attention to what you are grateful for becomes easier as you practice it.
Imagine your life without the things or people that matter to you, before you begin writing. That should definitely boost your gratitude barometer.
2. Gratitude Jar
The gratitude jar is a stunningly simple exercise that can have profound effects on your well-being and outlook. It only requires a few ingredients: a jar (a box can also work); a ribbon, stickers, glitter, or whatever else you like to decorate the jar; paper and a pen or pencil for writing your gratitude notes; and gratitude!
Step 1: Find a jar or box.
Step 2: Decorate the jar however you wish. You can tie a ribbon around the jar’s neck, put stickers on the sides, use clear glue and glitter to make it sparkle, paint it, keep it simple, or do whatever else you can think of to make it a pleasing sight.
Step 3: This is the most important step, which will be repeated every day. Think of at least three things throughout your day that you are grateful for. It can be something as benign as a coffee at your favorite place, or as grand as the love of your significant other or dear friend. Do this every day, write down what you are grateful for on little slips of paper and fill the jar.
Over time, you will find that you have a jar full of a myriad of reasons to be thankful for what you have and enjoy the life you are living. It also will cultivate a practice of expressing thanks.
If you are ever feeling especially down and need a quick pick-me-up, take a few notes out of the jar to remind yourself of who, and what, is good in your life.
3. Gratitude Rock
This exercise may sound a little silly. You may be thinking, “A rock? How can a rock help me practice gratitude?”
The secret to this exercise is that the rock is a symbol, a physical object you can use, to remind yourself of what you have.
The instructions are about as simple as instructions can be: just find a rock!
Make sure to pick one you like, whether you like it because it’s pretty because it is smooth or has an interesting texture, or because you picked it up from a special place. If you have another small object you’d rather use instead, feel free to substitute that for the rock.
Carry this rock around in your pocket, leave it on your desk where you will see it throughout your day, or even wear it on a chain around your neck or your wrist.
Whenever you see it or touch it, pause to think about at least one thing you are grateful for. Whether it’s something as small as the sun shining down on you in this moment or as large as the job that allows you to feed yourself or your family, just think of one thing that brings you joy or fulfillment.
When you take the stone out of your pocket or off of your body at the end of the day, take a moment to remember the things that you were grateful for throughout the day. When you put it on or in your pocket again in the morning, repeat this process to remember what you were grateful for yesterday.
Not only will this help you remember the things you are grateful for, but also it can trigger a mini-mindfulness moment in your day. It will bring you out of your head and into the present moment, giving you something to focus your attention on. It can also act as a switch to more positive thinking.
When you flip this switch multiple times a day, you will likely find that your average day has become much more positive.
4. Gratitude Tree
The gratitude tree is a great activity for children, and it can also be effective for adults who are open to experiencing a childlike sense of fun and wonder. You will need several double-sided colored sheets of paper, string or ribbon, scissors, twigs or tree branches, some stones or marbles, a vase, and a sense of gratitude.
- Step 1: Make one or more leaf cutouts to use as a template for your leaves.
- Step 2: Cut out the leaves, punch a hole at the top of each leaf, and loop your string or ribbon through each hole.
- Step 3: Put the stones or marbles in a vase and stick the tree branch or twig in the middle.
- Step 4: Have your (or your child) draw or write things that you (or your child) are grateful for on the leaves. You can also use photographs if you’d like.
- Step 5: Hang the leaves from the branches, and behold your gratitude tree!
This activity is easy and results in a pretty reminder of the things that bring you or your child joy throughout your daily life. It may be intended for kids but there is no age limit on finding creative ways to cultivate your gratitude, so get to drawing!
5. Gratitude Garden
The gratitude garden activity is a good activity to follow creating gratitude trees. This is also intended for children, but adults can certainly follow along to get into the gratitude spirit.
Follow these steps to journey to the gratitude garden.
- Start the Journey: Stand up in front of the group, with the Thankfulness/Gratitude Tree in clear view. Explain that you are all going on a trip to the Grateful Garden, but to get there you have to go through three dangerous places. (Insert a word other than “dangerous” if more appropriate to the age group). The Thankfulness Tree will help you get through each one so you can make it to the Grateful Garden.
- The Frowny Forest: The first stop is the Frowny Forest. Have the kids all mimic you as you frown, cross your arms, and hunch over. There is a lot of wind in the Frowny Forest, so mimic being tossed about by the wind, turning back and forth as if you are trying to fight it. The only way to leave the Frowny Forest is to feel happy again, so ask the kids to shout out things they are grateful for (using the Thankfulness Tree as a prompt). After they have named a few things, mimic great relief, with a big smile.
- The Sad Swamp: But, oh no! Just beyond the Frowny Forest is the Sad Swamp! Hunch over again, swing your arms down low, and walk (in place) in big, heavy steps, as if walking through mud or water. Again, have the kids shout out things they are grateful for, so you can all leave the Sad Swamp.
- The Mad Mountain: Past the Sad Swamp is the Mad Mountain. Have them imitate you as you pretend to climb up the mountain with great effort, making angry faces. Again, have the kids shout out things they are grateful for, so you can all feel happy again.
- The Grateful Garden: Finally, you have all arrived at the Grateful Garden! What a good job they have done! To celebrate, everyone can do a Happy Hop! (All Done Monkey, 2012)
Going through each of these negative emotions can be a fun and interactive learning opportunity for kids. For older children (or young-minded adults!), you can even add in a few other, more complex negative emotions, like the “Disgusted Dock” or the “Petty Pier.”
To read these instructions, click here.
This is an uncertain time filled with stressful moments, anxiety, and the pressure to constantly “do something” with our kids, who have likely all lost any semblance of normal routines. Although meditation is something that both adults and kids can benefit from practicing at any time, now more than ever, being able to process feelings, destress, and get quality sleep is of the utmost importance.
While we all have our families under one roof, cohabiting in a way that’s different than ever before, turn to one of the below apps for kids that contain mindfulness activities, guided meditations, and more to help them process their feelings, stay calm under stress and pressure, and get to sleep a little easier each night.
All GoNoodle videos are created by a team of experienced designers, educators, and child development, movement and dance specialists. When your child is playing GoNoodle, you can feel confident that she’s in a safe, secure environment; we have no in-app purchases or links to other sites. And with everything from dance and yoga, to hip-hop and sports, GoNoodle has videos that appeal to kids of different ages and their varying interests. Every dance party, yoga video or breathing exercise is an opportunity for kids to wake up their bodies, engage their minds, and have a blast.
The Moshi: Sleep and Mindfulness app has soothing bedtime stories for kids to help calm them down before bed and, hopefully, lull them to sleep. The app is free and has some free content, including “Close Your Eyes Sleepy Paws” and “Goldie the Mindful Moshling” (which is narrated by Goldie Hawn).
A free app aimed at kids ages 4 and up, Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame helps to teach kids skills such as problem solving, self-control, planning, and task persistence through its interactive activities. Your kids can also “Breathe With the Monster” to practice taking deep breaths when they need to calm down. Click here to read Common Sense Media’s review of this app!
Smiling Mind is a free meditation app for people of all ages, but has youth programs for kids ages 7 and up. The app was developed by psychologists and educators to aid users in keeping their minds healthy through times of stress, pressure, and the challenges of daily life. Click here to read Common Sense Media’s review of this app!
The fun and easy-to-use Mindful Powers app was designed to be a part of your child’s daily routine to help them to learn the power of mindfulness through a series of interactive voice-guided sessions. The free app will help kids develop the skills they need to overcome big emotions, stay calm and relaxed, and to focus. Click here to read Common Sense Media’s review of this app!
Stop, Breathe, and Think Kids
With the Stop, Breathe & Think Kids app, kids ages 5 through 10 can learn to check in with how they’re feeling, listen to mindful sleep stories before bed, go on “missions” to do meditation and mindful activities, and more. The app can help them manage stress, anxiety, and sadness, and aids with both better sleep and calming down when overexcited. Click here to read Common Sense Media’s review of this app!
Wellbeyond Meditation for Kids
Aimed at kids ages 4 and up, Wellbeyond Meditation For Kids offers five free guided meditations to help with sleep, relaxation, focus, concentration, managing feelings, and more. There are nine additional meditations available as in-app purchases. Click here to read Common Sense Media’s review of this app!
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment and accepting what you are sensing and feeling without interpretation or judgment. Mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other techniques to relax the body and mind and reduce stress.
Mindfulness has benefits for kids too. Mindfulness helps kids focus, reduce anxiety, and regulate their emotions. It has even been shown to reduce aggression, which improves social relationships.
Let’s get started! We’ve assembled a collection of resources so you can learn more about mindfulness and find the methods and techniques that work best for you.
If your family found these apps helpful and you’d like to explore other options, check out this great tool from Common Sense Media featuring a “best of” list of meditation apps for kids of all ages.
Plan a 30 Day Gratitude Challenge with Your Family
There are tons of articles online with gratitude challenges that families can participate in together, but we think that the best way for families like yours to put a plan into practice is to make the plan together. We recommend making a gratitude-themed calendar with a different activity your family can do together every day that inspires gratefulness.
Each member of the family will each take a gratitude picture every day and share it. (A positive use for social media!) Whether it’s a photo of the new puppy in the family or a pretty sunrise, knowing that you’ll find one thing every day that makes you grateful can change your focus on the whole season.
MAKE GRATITUDE STONES
This is a cute and easy craft for all ages. Gratitude stones can be used as conversation starters, to calm down strong feelings, or as part of a bedtime ritual. They are also fun to share with others! (From Fireflies and Mudpies)
THEMED CONVERSATION PROMPTS
Dedicate one or two nights per week to gathering for a family dinner. Then, plan to discuss one of the following themes around the table (from Positively Present):
Whether you realize it or not, every day, every moment, you’re growing and changing. Most of us focus on growth as something that happens when we’re young, but we never stop growing. How have you grown over the past year? Or how have you seen someone or something else grow?
You’ve learned so much since the day you were born, which is pretty amazing. What’s the thing you’re most thankful to have learned? Is there knowledge you’ve gathered this year that you’re particularly grateful for? Also, today is a great day to be thankful for the resources and people who have taught you.
What song are you most thankful for right now?
No matter where you live, there’s likely to be some nature around you. What is inspiring or beautiful about nature you come into contact with often? What elements of nature do you most connect with? What element of the natural world are you most grateful to experience?
Consider your favorite moment or item from the past. What was wonderful about it? How do you feel when you think of that time / thing / person?
Change can be a negative or positive experience, but it’s an inevitable part of life. What’s changed in life over the past year? What’s changed in the last decade? Do you have new friends, new experiences, new mindsets? If you’re struggling with this prompt, change the way you do something today and see how it feels.
When do you most feel at peace? When you do feel relaxed, calm, and most like yourself? Those moments are the ones you should celebrate today (and maybe even consider how you want to incorporate more of them in your life!).
There is always something beautiful around you if you make an effort to look for it. What beauty are you grateful to see or experience today, right now? What things make your home, office, neighborhood, etc. more beautiful? Who around you embodies the essence of beauty? What do you find beautiful about yourself?
How do you feel about color? Which ones are your favorites? What colors inspire feelings of happiness? Share those today!
Without friendship, life would be quite dull. Today’s the day to focus your attention on the friends who brighten your world. Who has been by your side no matter what? Who can you call, day or night, for a chat? Who puts a smile on your face when you think of them?
What books do you love most? What’s the best book you’ve read this year, or in recent years? What have you learned from books that you might not have otherwise known?
Kindness is such a simple thing, but it’s not always as abundant as it could be. Today’s a good day to do something especially kind for someone else. It’s also the day to celebrate kindness — kindness you’ve committed, you’ve experienced, or you’ve witnessed. When you think of the word “kindness,” what’s the first thing you think of?
What does the word “home” mean to you? Is it where you rest your head each night? Is it where you grew up? Or is home more of a state of mind? Or perhaps a person? Home doesn’t need to be a physical thing so feel free to explore creatively with this prompt. Whatever home means to you, reflect on it and share a photo of it today.
Humor is one of life’s greatest gifts. It can transform a mood, lighten a tough time, or touch on tough topics with levity. Today, reflect on what makes you laugh and the things you find humorous. Is it a movie? A book? A joke? A memory? A friend? Whatever evokes that giddy sense of joy within you, be thankful for it.
Family — no matter what shape or size it comes in — is something we’re all lucky to have in our lives. Take note of your family today (and “family” can include friends or anyone you’ve chosen as your family, too!). What do you love about the family you surround yourself with? What do you often take for granted and could be extra appreciative of today?
No matter what, the one thing you will always have in your life is YOU. On the final day of the challenge, I like to turn our attention inward. Consider, today, all the ways you are amazing, and appreciate the good (and not so good!) parts of yourself. What do you love most about you? What aspects do you feel deserve more love and attention?
- WATCH GRATITUDE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE: There are so many great videos you can enjoy as a family, then follow with a group discussion! Here is one example:
MAKE THANK-YOU LETTERS OR DRAWINGS
Most people love receiving thank you cards: family members, friends, your child’s teachers, neighbors, etc. This can also be a great way to teach your child how to address a friendly letter and send it via “snail mail!”